I am so excited to help you plan a dog-friendly wedding! Some of my couples choose to include their dogs as part of their wedding day. So I created this blog to share my top tips and recommendations for planning a dog-friendly wedding. I know how much your fur babies mean to you. So I’m here to make bringing your dog to your wedding a smooth and unforgettable experience.
Dog-Friendly Wedding Locations
The top priority for a dog-friendly elopement is finding a dog-friendly location! Dogs are not allowed on the majority of trails in National Parks and State Parks. But no need to worry! Most places in Colorado are National Forest and allow for dogs to hike on trail. And I have a handful of my own favorite spots for taking dogs for photos too!
You can also find dog-friendly hikes using the app AllTrails. You can filter hike results to show only dog-friendly hikes! Which is a really great way to get possible locations. It’s important to note that AllTrails or other online websites are not in charge of these locations. So even if AllTrails says it’s allowed, the National Forest or land management might not allow dogs based on bear activity, trail popularity, or for other reasons. For the most part, AllTrails and other services are accurate. But it always helps to double-check what you find.
National Park Dog Rules
I should mention that dogs are technically allowed in parking lots and other paved areas in a lot of National Parks. But this isn’t usually the elopement experience couples are looking for with their fur babies. There are exceptions to this though. Just be sure to research your location in advance to know what to expect.
My Favorite Dog-Friendly Locations
Colorado is easily the most dog-friendly elopement or wedding destination in the United States. Not just because we have tons of trail options that are dog-friendly. But because Colorado as a whole is super dog-friendly. There are lots of dog-friendly breweries, cafes, and other areas you will probably be visiting on your trip. Washington and Oregon are also really dog-friendly in the National Forests and out along the coast. On the flip side, states like Wyoming and Montana have more restrictions for trails because they have grizzly bears out there.
You can also check out my blog post on picking your elopement location for more tips!
This goes hand in hand with choosing a dog-friendly location! You obviously need to have an Airbnb, VRBO, or other accommodation that allows dogs. It’s easy to add a filter in your search on Airbnb for dog-friendly accommodations! Be sure when you’re looking at a potential cabin to consider if it will work well for your dog (you might already be used to doing this). Do you need extra space? Does it have a fenced yard? Is it going to be a loud area where your dog barks at everything? Any dog amenities? These are things to consider when looking for a dog-friendly cabin!
Dog-Friendly Wedding Tips
I have seen quite a few dog-friendly weddings and elopements. So I know how to make this a smooth process! I want to help you include your dog while keeping your day stress-free. So here are my favorite dog-friendly elopement tips:
- Bring A Dog Caretaker: If your sibling, a friend, or a family member can be in charge of your dog(s), it can really help you stay present in the moment together rather than running around wrangling them in. lol.
- Practice Beforehand: Don’t wait until your trip to travel with your dog or hike with them for the first time. Dogs will do a lot better if they’re familiar with traveling and being on public trails.
- Bring Treats for Photos: Be sure to bring their favorite dog treats to get them to look at the camera! You probably want to bring their treats anyway. But it’s especially helpful for photos.
- Make Your Dog Feel at Home: If you can bring their doggy bed, favorite toys, or other items, it’ll help your dog feel more comfortable in new places!
It’s important to be respectful of trail regulations and other hikers. A dog-friendly elopement also means following Leave No Trace principles while out exploring with your dog. So here are my tips for bringing your dog on the trail:
- Keep Your Dog On A Leash: Leashes are required on most trails. It’s good practice anyway in a completely new environment. Even if your dog is a well-trained pro. Your elopement day isn’t where I want to challenge that! Tip: tie their leash to your waist belt on your back to free up your hands to hold other items like bouquet, dress, etc
- Bring Dog Booties: A lot of trails are rocky and rough on dog paws. Consider bringing dog booties to protect their feet.
- Bring A Dog Pack: Make your dog carry their stuff! Not only is this less weight for you, but it also helps you stay organized and remember to bring everything.
- Bring Dog Poop Bags: Always make sure to have plenty of dog poop bags to clean up and pack out their waste.
- Bring Dog Bowl For Water: Even your pups need to stay hydrated, so make sure to pack extra water.
- Bring Rain Jacket/Warm Jacket/Cooling Jacket: Be prepared for rain, cold temps, and hot temps with the proper clothes for your dog.
- Bring First Aid Kit for Dogs: In case your dog gets hurt on the trail or any other day of your trip, you’ll want to be prepared.
- Be Respectful of Other Hikers: When passing other hikers, keep your dog close to you! We don’t want your dog running up, sniffing, or jumping on other hikers.
Ways to Include Your Dog
So you’ve decided to bring your dog, and you’ve chosen a dog-friendly elopement location…now what? Well, you have to figure out how to include your dog in your elopement! There’s a whole spectrum of options. How much you include your dog depends on your hikes, your dog’s personality, and other factors.
Including your dog (without bringing them)
Truth be told, you can include your dog without even bringing them! If your dog is a furball of crazy energy and doesn’t do well in public, maybe it’s a sign to leave them at home. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them! You might also be flying all the way across the country where bringing your dog isn’t practical. Don’t worry though. We can still include your doggo in your elopement!
- Video chat with your dog on your day! Set aside time at your Airbnb with good Wifi to Facetime your dog sitter or family member. We’ve seen really cute reactions from dogs on video chats and it feels so special for my couples!
- Get artwork or other memorabilia made of your dog as part of your elopement day.
- Let me know if you have a tattoo of your dog so I can be sure to take photos.
- If you’re hosting a reception later on, you could include your dog then!
Including Your Dog (bringing them to your elopement)
If you decide to bring your dog, I have lots of ways to include them! I know how excited your dog (and you both) are to go on a fun trip and sniff all the new places. Okay, maybe that last part is only true for your dog. Either way, here are some great ways to include your pup!
At Your Airbnb
Even if your hiking location isn’t dog-friendly, it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate at your Airbnb! Celebrating at your Airbnb also might be less stressful and give you more flexibility for trails and plans for the day. It’s also nice to have their water, food, treats, and everything else all in one place. This is the easiest way to include your dog without prepping to take them on the trail!
Signing Your Marriage License
This recommendation is unique to Colorado. But you can actually have your dog sign their paw print and be a legal witness of your marriage! Pretty cool, right? You’ll want to have dog-friendly ink to do this and it would be a good idea to practice beforehand.
Not in Colorado? Dress up your dog!
In other states where that’s not an option to have them sign your marriage license, you can have your dog be your ring-bearer, get them a cute dog tuxedo or tie, or even get them their own doggy floral crown/necklace.
- Bow Ties
- Dog Tags
At Vistas or Overlooks
You can also decide to bring your dog to an easy walk-out location or for just part of your day. Maybe it’s easiest to have sunset dedicated to vows and photos alone–while going to an overlook with your dog beforehand. Or you can have them sit by your feet as you say your vows then have a friend/family member take them back to your accommodations while you continue taking photos!
Out On The Trail
Maybe you have a high-energy dog and routinely take them on hikes! Some dogs do really well hiking and exploring with their parents. If that sounds like you, we can keep your dog with us all day. Usually, this just means being extra prepared with food, a water bowl, dog treats, and anything else you might need. The couples that have done this with me, usually go on hikes frequently with their dog and know what to expect!
And lastly, remember to give them rest too! Especially if you’ve done a hike, they need their naps too!
Traveling with your dog on a road trip?
- Have up to date dog tags (contact info)
- Bring copy of vaccination card in case they get sick
- Designated space in the car (make comfortable with fav blanket, dog bed, etc)
- Good quality toys to keep them occupied/play with them at rest stops
- Water bowl to keep them hydrated + lots of bathroom breaks
- Go camping to give your dog even more space
- Staying at a hotel? Bring a collapsible crate
Why I Love Dog-Friendly Weddings and Elopements
If you didn’t know this about me, I absolutely love love love dogs. But I’ve lived as a nomad over the last six years. So I haven’t had a stable home environment to raise my own pups. So getting to interact with my couple’s dogs is such a cathartic experience for me. When I finally have a stable home and stop moving around Colorado, I’ll be getting a dog (or two) to explore the mountains together. But until then, I’m savoring every moment I get to spend with your dogs on your elopement day. Helping couples plan dog-friendly weddings and elopements is so special for me. Not only because I selfishly get to spend time with dogs, but also because I have lots of advice and experience on how to make this a more stress-free and fun experience for both you and your dog.